I hope you are keeping safe and well during this difficult time. During the summer I read “The Finnish Way – Finding Courage, Wellness, and Happiness Through the power of Sisu” by Katja Pantzar. She writes of the meaning of Sisu that “It’s about not giving up, especially when things get tough”
I think we could all do with the power of Sisu now and I am going to read this book again. I urge you to read it too. I found it so inspirational that I felt I had to write to her and Katja kindly agreed to be interviewed. I’m delighted to share this with you. Thank you so much Katja.
was raised in Canada with stints in the UK and New Zealand, she is a
Helsinki-based writer, editor and journalist. Her most recent book The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness
and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu (Penguin Random House USA) is about
the Nordic lifestyle, wellbeing and resilience. She’s currently at work on a non-fiction
title called Daily Sisu, a follow-up
to The Finnish Way, which has been translated
into 20 different languages.
What brought you to writing? Why write?
“As a child I fell in love with reading books. I started writing and making my own little books, complete with waxed paper jackets to emulate the library book covers of the time. I started writing because I love storytelling for the journeys it takes me on. Growing up, I was the slightly odd immigrant kid (my family immigrated to Canada from Finland via New Zealand) and I cherished how disappearing into a book often made me feel accepted and provided a great escape from daily life. I wanted to share that good feeling with others by writing stories they would (hopefully) enjoy.”
Why do you write?
“I write for a living so it’s everything from journalism (the daily
news) to copy-writing, non-fiction books, and hopefully fiction some day. Two
of my areas of specialism are wellbeing and mental health. I write because it helps
me to make sense of the world and it makes me happy— it has been my dream to be
a writer since I was about 9 or 10 years old.”
How does it make you feel? Is it helpful?
“Whenever possible, I try to choose writing assignments that offer
solutions and inspiration to readers, i.e. text to make the world a slightly
better place by sharing useful information. This type of writing and so-called
solutions journalism make me feel as though I’m making a positive contribution,
which is important to me, especially during these very unusual and challenging
Do you have a routine or process as you write?
“I have an ancient but beloved laptop that I use for writing. I always
have a notebook and a black pen beside me as I find making notes is essential
to my idea-generating and writing process.”
Any further thoughts?
“Writing, like reading, helps me to make sense of the world. When
something is bothering me, journaling often brings about a realization I would not
necessarily have arrived at without pen and paper.”
I hope you are keeping safe. Well. We are almost there aren’t we? We are in the last month of what has been one of the most horrendous years most of us will have ever known. I never usually stay up on New Year’s Eve but this year I will – just to check it definitely gone! Anyway I digress – usually at this time of year I am giddy with the excitement of Christmas, it’s usually a whirlwind of theatre trips, meals out, toasts in the local, catching up with friends, Christingle and carol in the parks. I’ll be making my lists (and checking them twice…) shopping for gifts, watching Christmas films and writing Christmas cards. Then there is the big day amongst family, followed by visits and a big family party heading towards new years’, lots of whizzing up and down motorways and by the 1st of January we are happy and exhausted. This year will be different for all of us, I’m in Tier 3 and many traditional events cancelled and there’ll be no whizzing up the motorway for family get together for us. It’ll just be my family of three, with a helping of family facetime and a splash of Tia Maria in my morning coffee. It’s all rather strange, stilted, quiet and subdued, I’m not excited like I usually am but it is what it is and there will be more Christmases to celebrate in the future.
There will be a few traditions that we are able to continue, such as going through the radio times with a yellow highlighter, Christmas telly with carols from kings, The Queens Speech and Doctor Who, gift giving and receiving and of course a sumptuous turkey dinner. I’m also going to continue sending Christmas cards this year.
In the year of social distancing and life being topsy-turvy I think we are all feeling distanced and separate from our friends and family and seeking ways to connect more than ever. I’m definitely feeling it so this year I’ll be making a special effort with my Christmas cards and will include a note or two rather than the usual scribble of “Merry Christmas!” I’m pleased to share with you all that I have been featured in the Christmas edition of Prima magazine talking about connecting through Christmas cards. I talk about how when writing your cards, to do it mindfully and enjoy being in the moment, slow down. “Writing by hand slows everything down, encouraging us to really think” I talk about personalising the cards – I think there is something very powerful in receiving a letter or personalised card, to me it shows that someone has had you in their thoughts and it means so much. “This year when many people have not seen friends or relatives I think it’s more important than ever to connect with others. Hearing from a friend after so much distance cannot be under estimated” It’s just a small thing that I can do to keep busy and let my friends and family know that I am thinking about them albeit at a distance. I hope you enjoy writing your cards and however you are celebrating – Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year.
Hello All, how are you doing? I have written here before about why I write, how I find it helpful as a way to create, to express and to empty my mind. I thought it would be interesting to talk to other writers about their writing process and why they write, so I am very pleased-delighted-over-the-moon-excited-proud to present a mini series of “Why I Write” with some lovely authors…..
If you are an avid twitter user (just me) you may have come across the page @haggardhawks written by the fantastic Paul Anthony Jones (if you haven’t go check it now… and what have you been doing with your time??!) Haggard Hawks is a twitter feed devoted to bring back long forgotten words etymological stories” it is truly fabulous.
As it says on his website – Paul is author of
eight books about language and etymology: word origins guide Haggard Hawks (2013); its
sequel Jedburgh Justice (2014);
language trivia book Word Drops (2015); The Accidental Dictionary (2016);
language yearbook The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities (2017); etymological
journey Around the World in 80 Words (2018); and The Cabinet of Calm (2020), a
collection of hopeful and inspiring words.
Paul kindly chatted to me about his enjoyment of writing
and his process, I am very pleased to share it with you below. Thanks Paul!
What brought you to writing?
honestly think as long as I can remember I’ve written for pleasure – there are
countless pictures of me as a kid sitting with a pencil and a bit of paper
while all the other kids in my family are playing with action figures, so I
think it might be in my DNA! It really is all I’ve wanted to do.
Why do you write?
reasons, I guess.
personal level, I write simply because I enjoy it! I’ve never understood the
classic writer’s fear of that first blank page; putting words down on paper and
creating something is just what I love doing! Even if writing weren’t my
career, I know I’d still be putting pen to paper in my spare time. It’s just a
way of expounding and expressing thoughts and ideas, and recording things I
broadly, given the kind of writing I’m involved in at the moment, I guess I’m
also driven by a love of getting what I think is the most fascinating subject
in the world out to a larger audience. Working and studying in academia really
fostered my love of language and language study, but I was constantly
frustrated that academic research is so closed off – secretive, competitive
world that keeps all the best bits to itself! So I walked away from that with
an eye to taking all that wonderful research and knowledge, and repackage it
for a wider audience. So you could say I’m driven also by a love of
communicating a subject I find fascinating, too.
How does it make you feel? Is it helpful?
nonfiction, fiction, poetry, plays, journals, diaries – I think a lot of
people’s writing is an outlet, a kind of release. Writing is all about
expressing yourself, and getting those ideas and thoughts you have swimming
round your head down on paper and out into the real world – crucially, in your
own voice, whatever that may be. I sometimes read back over my first books and
blogs and cringe a little, because I can tell instantly that I was still
writing with quite a dry, professional, academic template still in place. I
write much more relaxedly now, in a more conversational way, and it feels so
good to be able to express myself in my own voice.
Do you have a routine or process as you write?
first “quit my day job” and began writing full time, I really
struggled to keep to a routine. Not having a regular 9-5 framework to work
around, I ended up writing at all times of day, often into the early hours of
the morning, and my work really suffered as a result. Some people really can
work like that, but I learnt quickly that it doesn’t quite suit me.
then, my day to day routine has become much more structured: I always do an
early morning class at my local gym (when we’re not in lockdown…!), which gets
me up and about, then back home and in front of my laptop or a pile of books by
about 8.30am. For me, I find it’s too easy to let the morning drift by without
something to get out of bed for!
typically working on several projects at the same time – my latest book,
pitches for new ideas, freelance articles, promotional work and articles, blog
posts for my website, Twitter posts, podcasting ideas… The list goes on. As a
result, I quite often work in a fairly scattershot way, switching between one
project and another; I’ll quite often work on three or four different pieces or
ideas in a single day. That wouldn’t work for everyone, certainly, but I find
it really helps to work on one thing, step away for a time to work on something
else, then come back with a clearer head. It’s too easy to get bogged down,
working on a single idea for days at a time, I find, and lose track of the fact
that you’re writing for other people to read, not yourself.
I’m asked about the writing process, I always like to make a point that what
works for me may not be what works for anyone else. There’s quite often an
awful snobbishness surrounding professional writing, that can make people who
are just starting out think that if they aren’t writing thousands of words
every day; or they don’t keep a diary; or they write on a laptop rather than
longhand; or they don’t have a notebook and a fountain pen with them every
moment of every day, that they’re not a “Proper Writer”. It drives me
Yes, many professional writers write and act like you would expect a professional writer to – but many, many writers don’t. You’re a writer if you write – it’s as simple as that. And whether that means moving to Paris and writing a novel on an old iron typewriter, or sneaking away from the kids for half an hour to write a couple of paragraphs on Microsoft Word on the family PC, it doesn’t matter. Your writing method is your own, no better or worse than anyone else’s – so don’t let anyone ever put you off!
“Autumn seemed to arrive early that year. The first of September was as crisp and golden as an apple” Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows JK Rowling.
returns to school today for the first time in almost six months. The first of
September – I’ve just learnt is also the day when readers celebrate Harry
Potter going to Hogwarts. We’re big Potter fans in this house so it is quite
apt that it’s the same day – this never happens – schools in Leicester are
usually back a few days earlier – but everything is a little bit different at
the moment. The first of September seems like a good day to start a new term a
I’m somewhat apprehensive
I must admit, but I couldn’t be more reassured by the measures her school have
put in place and I’m pleased to know that some sense of normality is returning
for many of us.
I’m typing away
very content to be back in my little study that had been recommissioned as my
husband’s office as he worked from home and I’m pleased to return our dining
table back to its intended use having served us well as study and school room.
I sit at my
desk, the house is quiet and I have the solitude I craved for months. I have my
cup of coffee, a candle on and classic FM twinkles in the background. It is the
perfect time for some reflection. Each season in my own writing and in the
workshops I deliver I encourage a seasonal reflection, to think about what we
are happy to let go of and what we are grateful for.
In thinking and
reflecting – it’s been quite a spring and summer for us all hasn’t it? Probably
the worst, most terrifying and concerning that any of us have ever encountered.
Our normal lives stripped from us for a time, separate from family and friends and
the whole world is crisis and turmoil. We all stayed at home.
Life is slowly
returning to what it once was, however lockdown is still somewhat in force here
in Leicester. There still can’t be visitors in our homes or gardens, indoor
pools and dance schools remain closed and families still separated. There hasn’t
been the grand opening of society that I yearning for, it’s all been rather
slow and in dribs and drabs. In an effort to encourage normalcy before the
return to school, as a family we’ve been for burgers in our local pub, and had
a quiet trip to the cinema – normal things we used to do. It hasn’t been as
exciting as I thought it might be – it’s all so different, booking ahead, it’s
all more subdued and less spontaneous. I know it’s all for our safety but it’s
all quieter, underwhelming, different and strange.
I was lucky
enough to continue to work from home – transferring all my public facing
workshops to delivery via zoom, whilst being able to home school my daughter
and dedicate much of my time to her. As I reflect – I am grateful for this time
I got to spend with her. Our little family of three were so busy, particularly
my daughter – in a whirlwind of after school clubs, guides, dance lessons and
music lessons, running, and for us as well as full time work, part time
workshops, house chores, house renovation and our own activities any dedicated family
time got lost in all of that . I’m so glad we had the opportunity to slow down
and spend this time with her before she grew up too much – as normal life
returns we’ve all resolved to spend more time together – Sundays on walks and
tea at the table instead of in front of the TV (easy done) more board games and
taking things a bit slower. This is something I’m taking from all this
September for me has always meant a new term, going back to school (even though I’ve not attended for 25 years!) it has always seemed a good time to start something new. A new season. Here’s to conker collecting, jumper wearing, apple eating, squash roasting, blanket curling up in …. autumn. Here’s to a new start – a new term.
Hello, how are you holding up during this unusual and strange time? I hope you are taking the chance to slow down, simplify and enjoy quiet moments.
A while ago I had an idea to write an A to Z of mindful moments blog series, where i’d share ideas and notes for finding a mindful moment or two, which I never got round to starting. I think it might be quite apt to begin it now … I hope you enjoy these suggestions and I’d welcome any of your ideas. So here we go…
A is for ASMR
ASMR – you may have heard of it, or you may experience it yourself. ASMR means Autonomous Meridian sensory response. It’s those tingles you get down your back when you are getting haircut, or a massage. Or perhaps it’s the shivers when someone is whispering to you, reading aloud or turning pages, playing with your hair, or it could be writing on paper sounds, or typing and tapping sounds.
It could be when you experience a really nice moment of customer service in a shop, someone packing a bag for you or perhaps some crinkling or humming sounds.
These tingles can come in waves or short bursts and can help with mindfulness, anxiety and falling asleep. I’ve experienced these tingles since I was a child without really knowing what they were or how they appeared. ASMR is the first thing I go to now if I need help falling asleep, or if I am in an anxious moment an ASMR video has been known to help calm me and ground me. It’s perfect for relaxing, whether you have an hour or only a few minutes.
There are many artists in the whispering community (as they call it) on You Tube all offering us a mindful moment or two, you just have to find the right trigger that works for you. I came to ASMR around seven years ago, we have an old house that needs a lot of work and at that time I had small toddler running about the place, so for some downtime I started watching organisational videos on You Tube, how to fold clothes, sort pantry cupboards and such, then one day I came across a towel folding one from an artist called “Gentle Whispering”. I watched it and had tingles galore.
The word ASMR was used a lot in her videos so I looked it up and thought “oh that is what it is?” the tingles and shivers I’d had since childhood. Watching Maria – Gentle Whispering Channel led me to another Channel – Whispers Red. Emma, whom I’m pleased to say I know IRL (in real life!).
A few years ago now I contacted Emma and we started corresponding – she’s lovely! We’ve chatted quite a bit and some time ago she commissioned me to write a mindful meditation for her ASMR Happens live event that was held in London in April 2017. This was followed up by another live event in San Francisco. You can follow the link here to read her blog about her live events. Emma, when not working on her channel, or undertaking various collaborations, has two dogs, two children, a husband and a new book to promote Unwind your Mind – The life Changing Power of ASMR I caught up with her for a few moments to chat about it all.
How did you come to ASMR? I have experienced the ASMR sensation my whole life. It has always been a part of my normal sensory experience. However I didn’t know there was a name for it and assumed that perhaps everyone experienced it, maybe it wasn’t important enough to have a name? It was a lovely experience though and I felt it all the time. Haircuts, eye test, having may hair played with, whispers in the playground etc.. I first discovered ASMR videos on youtube in November 2012. After a car accident and many operations I was struggling to sleep. I searched for nature sounds to play in the background but came across asmr. It took a while but then I realised this was a name for my feeling and I haven’t look back since!
What does it mean to you? Nowadays ASMR means such a lot to me. I have lived it for the last 7 years since discovering it and becoming active in the asmr community online. ASMR means connection, kindness, mindfulness, calm, sleep, therapy, self discovery and so much more. The sensation is very calming and allows us to relax sufficiently enough to fall asleep. The videos are a way to trigger the feeling but also to connect with likeminded people all over the world. They really do bring people together from everywhere.
You’ve written a book!! How did that come about? At the beginning of 2019 I was contacted by Rider publishing, part of Penguin Random House. They wanted to see an introduction to ASMR on the book shelves but also a book that can serve as a way to explain how to utilise asmr in our daily lives. I have always spoken of ASMR as a mindfulness practise and have studied all aspects of it for many years so was very keen to take up the challenge.
Current favourite triggers or artists? My current favourite asmrtists are Bluewhisper & Somni Rosea for their voice and presence. I love a soft spoken kind voice, relaxing visuals and natural ambient sounds. My favourite triggers are light tapping, nature sounds and soft spoken voices and whispering.
Next projects for you…
Years ago I began testing out various formats of live asmr and this year I continue to do that. I’ve just returned from delivering a workshop and live stage performance in Gold Coast Australia soons I will be launching an academy to train spa professionals in ASMR treatments which they can provide to their customers. I have also made an ASMR music album which will be released over the next few months called ‘Dream Away – Sleepy ASMR Songs’
You can find out more about Emma’s work on her You Tube Channel – Whispers Red ASMR
Thanks for reading and see you next time for another mindful moment.
I dropped my daughter at school this morning for what might be her last day in her current year, I noticed the roads were quieter, less parents on the school run, less people around in general, all was more subdued. I took a slower walk home , instead of my usual head down, rushing to my study to begin my work from home, I took it slower and noticed people, all nodding and smiling at each other, being that little bit more friendly.
At this strange time, I’m heartened to see how we are all sticking together. In my small corner of Leicester, mutual aid groups have been set up, leaflets offering help posted through doors, local mums have set up facebook groups to help keep the children busy, our local pub is offering free soup, friends are posting school packs through my door and one lady from my Writing for Mental Health group has treated us all to a series of e books to read. I’m reading of singing on balconies in Italy and children in Spain putting up pictures and drawings in their windows. Small acts of kinds, simple things, simple pleasures its all amazing to see.
I’m currently flitting between concern and calm at the whole situation, with a few close family members working for the NHS, frontline and non-clinical – key workers – I am hearing of their daily reality now , elective operations cancelled and meetings postponed, hours of availablity required and the recall of those in retirement. I have always been thankful for the NHS and what they have done for me in my own life – but today more than ever… To the NHS superstars – thank you for all you are doing for us.
I get to spend extra time with my daughter, which we are both looking forward to. We have plans – we are going to bake, read, play, craft, learn about the planets, cloud spot and visit virtual museums. I am going to make this a positive experience for her and truly embrace this quiet time as society slows.
People are saying we are all banding together again, like in wartime – standing together and supporting one another. This can only be a good thing. We are being asked to hunker down and stay indoors, we can do this. We’ve got this.
Stay safe all. See you on the other side and soon this will all be a memory, a story.
I’m worried. I’ve woken up in the past week or so with a heightened sense of anxiety and nausea in the pit of my stomach. I probably don’t need to tell to you what’s on my mind, it’s the same thing that is concerning us all right now.
Speaking to a friend and fellow freelancer this morning she felt that there was a “weird energy about the place at the moment” and I completely agree with her. The world has changed for a time, it is a different place to what it was a month ago. It seems almost subdued and quieter. Smaller.
In wanting to be fully informed as this crisis develops I’m reading the news multiple times daily to check for updates and government advice. I’m worried about my family and friends who work in the NHS. I worry for family members who have cruises planned but not yet had them cancelled, I’m worrying about the old, the lonely and the vulnerable. I’m worrying about the possibility of schooling closing in the UK and the far reaching effect that would have, as this horrible virus blisters its way around the world.
I’m reading of panic buying and horrible people stockpiling – in effect stealing from those who can only shop weekly. I’m reading of closures of schools and universities in France and Ireland, of the closures of top museums and art galleries, film screenings delayed, mass sporting events cancelled, Disneyland closing their doors and Italy in total lockdown.
On a local level, in my small world there are arts events, conferences and writers events all being cancelled or postponed, events that have been held for years stopping as we hunker down and try to do what we can and wonder how best to protect ourselves.
described as “the worst public health crisis for a generation” I wonder of the
effect of the economy in the world as the world tries to contain the spread of
the coronavirus. There are things I want to plan, write and workshops to prepare
for but it seems rather futile at the moment.
I’m trying to keep an open mind, and a sensible mind, if only for the sake of my daughter. It’s tricky though as a freelancer and only seeing people at the school gates throughout the day it’s hard not to wish for a group of colleagues to support and to talk these things through. My husband who works in the NHS himself has been a calming influence and if my Grandma were here she’d tell me to stop worrying, wash my hands and carry on.
So I’m going to do what I always do when I don’t know what else to do, and that is write. I write my way through worry, grief, happiness, joy, anxiety, disappointment, stress, depression, I write to celebrate and to commemorate. I write to escape and to experience. I write it down. Write it out. I’m just going to keep writing, its all I know to do.
Thinking of you all out there. Take care of yourselves. Be kind.
We here we are its finally February! We’ve crawled, tiptoed and dawdled through dreary January. A month that seems to have lasted a year.
I decided at the start of this year not to burden myself with resolutions and the whole “New Year – New You” thing. I didn’t want to begin 2020 by overwhelming myself with lists, to do’s, and targets that I will inevitably fail by the 6th of January. I have been thinking about this and is New Year’s Day really that good a day to start being the new you? I’m not saying people can’t change, we can, and there is always something we can do to better ourselves. I’m saying that the 1st of January might not be the best day to start. We’re likely to be slightly hungover on this day, with a house that is filled with stilton, fancy biscuits, after eight mints and seven types of gin, when for breakfast you don’t really fancy a green smoothie but would rather have a snowball?
It’s cold outside, dark and grey all the time and I’d rather
be reading, curled up on the sofa, in the warm, or working our way through all the
Christmas telly we’ve recorded. I’m very unenthused about putting on my
trainers and power walking through the meadows at this point in the year. It’s
just not going to happen so I’m not going to set myself up for failure.
In my writing sessions in January we’ve written letters and
reflected upon 2019 of our highs and lows and what we’ve learnt and a letter to
the coming year of what we might do and we might hope for. In our group
discussions one participant mentioned reading an article that it was better to
start resolutions in Septembers, as you’ve had your summer holiday (cocktails
in the garden at 4pm and such) and you’re back at work, and children are
despatched back to school or university and normal service resumes. It’s the start
of a new school year and the weather is warm enough still to get any exercise
routines begun. It’s a thought if I don’t get myself organised in the next few
I was interested to read about the Gaelic festival of Imbolc
– a festival on the 1st of February that marks the end of winter, a time of change
when the nights become lighter and we begin thoughts of venturing back outside
as spring appears. We dust of our winter cobwebs (spring cleaning anyone?) and
blink into the pale sun. Perhaps this might be a better time to start those
resolutions. We are all back at work after the Christmas break and routines are
back in full swing, we’ve settled slowly into the New Year. There are a few
things I’d like to do, projects to start, books to be written, weight to be
lost, skills to learn but I’ve decided not to turn myself into knots trying to
do them all and feel disappointed when they don’t come to fruition. I’m just
going to be more accepting of myself, faults and all and that’s my new year’s resolution.
Sometime ago, my husband was at work and my daughter was at school. I was working from home and all was quiet. In my office and it was so peaceful, the nothing but the sound of the click and whirr of the heater beside me, the slow roar of cars outside, the clock on my desk ticking rhythmically and the tippity tap of the keyboard as I typed these words.
I was very aware of the sounds around me as I planned a writing for relaxation workshop on the theme of peace and quiet, it was a bright wintery day and I was very content in my own space. As I researched I read a book called “The Little Book of Quiet – Finding a Mindful Balance” edited by Tiddy Rowan. It’s been quite a revelation and I’ve learnt some things about myself that I didn’t quite realise before, that I am an introvert. I notice how calm, relaxed, and grounded I am when I have had time to be alone with my thoughts, writing, working, planning, seeking solace in solitude, not everyone likes solitude but we can all benefit from a time of peace and quiet.
As Tiddy writes “our lives, our world is becoming noisier while quietness is being eroded, our offices and homes getting louder as we fill our lives with more machinery and electronics we are bombarded by noise from traffic, machinery, building work, air traffic, mobile phones, computers and gadget, and what we hear affects our stress levels… often we are seeking ways of achieving a quieter life through mindfulness and other stress reducing practices”
As I wrote I consulted the world of social media for their ways of finding peace and quiet in a busy world. Here is what people came up with….thank you so much for sharing your thoughts…
It seemed there was a general consensus for being outside… “I go outside and garden” “Grey purring cats” “Water, rivers, waterfalls and walking” “A 5am walk in the wilderness with my dog” “Dog walking…if you always go the same way you notice how the seasons change and it helps make sense of the little things in life being part of the bigger picture” “Running – all I can think about is breathing!” “I head to my greenhouse and talk to my plants” “Watching people whilst sat in a coffee shop” “Being in nature” “Standing in a Scottish field with my red mare, I look at the trees and breathe the air and let everything go…no matter what is going on in my life I find quiet every morning in that field” “In the corner with a book” “In my busy university studio I put my headphones and play music – so the rest of the room disappears and I create my own space” “I shut myself away in my studio and paint” “Yoga and meditation” “A nice warm bath with bubbles” “A bike ride in the meadows” “Sitting on the bed with a good book” “I sit in a café whilst my boys are at their club, it is busy and loud but I study and it is peaceful and quiet in my head” Tiddy suggests getting up half an hour earlier to find yourself a moment of quiet before a busy day and form a new habit, no emails or call or making lists, just walking, yoga, jogging or mindfulness, or as I like to do – perhaps spend some time writing out your thoughts so you are fresh for the day ahead. During times of quiet this writing can help unclutter your mind and let go of unwanted thoughts or help clarify them in your head.
Before I go I’d like to leave you with this quote taken from Walden by Henry David Thoreau and his thoughts on Solitude.
“Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain storms in the spring or fall which confined me to the house for the afternoon as well as the forenoon soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting, when an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves”
I hope you have your own way to finding some peace and quiet.
It was on February 15th 2017, that I was able to achieve a lifelong dream of visiting Iceland and seeing the Northern Lights shine out for me on my 40th Birthday. It was a truly magical experience and since then I have been transfixed by the country, the people, the landscape and the customs. I’m almost homesick for a place that I only visited for three days.
Since then I have immersed myself in all things North (being a northern lass myself) Icelandic, Nordic and Sandi – and taken on board some of their ideas such as Cosy Fridays (more on this in another blog) and I have more scandi cookbooks than I will ever need – and I am currently working my way through Nordic Cooking – a huge tome that is now battered and covered in cooking stains (spiced honey cake is a winner in our house) and if it doesn’t have dill on it for dinner I don’t want it!
I’m intrigued by Nordic customs such Bolludagur – Choux Bun Day instead of Pancake Day anyone? I was delighted to read about Jólabókaflóð (Yule Book Flood) a charming tradition of the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood. Icelanders exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading them. (Can we do this here please?)
It is a custom that started during World War II where imports were very restricted – limiting gift giving ideas – but paper and books weren’t rationed so were easier to come by so the tradition of exchanging books arose as a result. So lovely. More often than not I’ll buy books for friends and family as Christmas gifts and have told them “if I love you I’ll buy you a book” and adore perusing book shops to find a book that suits the recipient. I love reading and receiving books – with a text message from my brother last week “It’s that time of year – what weird/arty book do you want this time?”
As my love for all things Nordic continues I have read only books with such theme, or are set somewhere north, or delve into Norse mythology – having had my very own mini Nordic book flood my reading list this year has included:
North by Bronte Aurell
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Ragnarok by AS Byatt
The Gospel of Loki The Testament of Loki Runelight RuneMarks all by Joanne Harris
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Seal Woman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
Names for the Sea by Sarah Moss
Icelandic Folk Legends The Little Book of the Hidden People both by Alda Sigmundsdóttir
I also have The 100 year old Man… Volsung and The Winter Book on my shelves to read in the New Year. I’m looking forward to catching Neil Gaimans’ “Norse Mythology” on Radio 4 over Christmas. I have really enjoyed my reading this year and was quite bereft upon finishing the series by Joanne Harris… so please if you have any scandi/Nordic reading suggestions for me please do let me know!